Friday, November 4, 2011

Book of Mormon painting seven.

... I'm back!! ... from an interstate funeral, being sick (still am), and being stranded due to the unprecedented Qantas debarkle. 

“From the Book of Mormon we learn how disciples of Christ live in times of war.” [1]

Ask anyone who has read or studied the Book of Mormon – it is filled with stories of war time.  And you know what?  These accounts were included for a purpose.  Yup.

They teach us about the need to preserve freedom in order to maintain religious rights.  They teach us when there is moral justification for war.  They teach us the damage that traitors can inflict.  And they teach us spiritual strategies to combat evil, while relying on God’s power to intervene.

Take the example of ‘the Stripling Warriors’.

The people are at war.  And we learn that there is very much a difference when fighting for/with the Lord, and not.

At one point, the Nephites needed to fight to protect their homes and families, but they had taken an oath years before to never fight again.  Should they break that covenant with God?  Or have the faith that God will provide another way?

We read that their sons, who had not entered into such a covenant, were able to fight.  All two thousand of them.  They decided they would defend their country.  Helaman became their captain.

So these stripling warriors went to battle in place of their fathers.  They were young men of righteousness. They were committed to defending their country (see Alma 56:5).  They were fearless in the face of death and courageous in battle (see Alma 56:45–49, 56).

Helaman’s “stripling sons” fought with miraculous power.  And God rewarded their faith with amazing strength and protection.  Not one of them died in battle (see Alma 57:25–26).

Of course this is not always the case - sometimes the righteous “die in the Lord” (D&C 63:49).  But in the case of these young men, divine protection was given that preserved their mortal lives in battle.

They exemplified the type of manhood that all of God’s sons should emulate and stood as a witness to the Nephite nation that God would deliver them if they were faithful.

Helaman Leads an Army of 2,000 Ammonite Youths
Arnold Friberg

And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage. …

Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.

And … Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people. (Alma 53:20–22)

What examples to our children!

The artist, Arnold Friberg, said: “They call them striplings— some say, ‘the Boy Scout army.’ No! No! They were young men. They were like David. They talk about David going out and taking on Goliath. They said, ‘He is a man of war and you are just a youth.’ That doesn’t mean that he was a little eight- year- old. In his statue of David, Michelangelo captures a splendid young man, athletic, maybe not as mature as men of war, but still a boy compared to them. That is the way I figure these youths were.

“I put Helaman on a horse. . . . Of course the Book [of Mormon] does not say that Helaman rode a horse, but in [certain] other places it mentions them. Ammon was out taking care of the king’s horses [at one point].”

The Book of Mormon states that these young men were true at all times. (Alma 53:20-21)  What does it mean to be true at all times?  The very word TRUE “implies commitment, integrity, endurance, and courage” [2].  Are we being true to the faith?  True to the faith that our parents have cherished, True to the faith for which martyrs have perished. (Hymn #254)

We are also told that they were firm and undaunted. (Alma 57:19–21)  Such powerful words.  Our former prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, discussed the importance of staying firm and undaunted with the youth: “‘You reflect this Church in all you think, in all you say, and in all you do. Be loyal to the Church and kingdom of God.’ . . . [You are] out there as the sons of Helaman in a world that is full of destructive influences. . . . But if you put your trust in the Almighty and follow the teachings of this Church and cling to it notwithstanding your wounds, you will be preserved and blessed and magnified and made happy.’

And we are in a world that is full of destructive influences. We are literally “in the midst of Babylon. The adversary comes with great destruction.” So what can we learn from these true and faithful warriors? “Stand above it, you of the noble birthright. Stand above it.” [3]

One really interesting detail the Book of Mormon tells us about these YOUTH and FAITHFUL men is that they did not doubt their mothers, and they paid tribute to that fact. (Alma 53:45-48)  Their mothers had strong testimonies of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, meaning their children were well taught and were surrounded by strong examples.  That’s motherhood in a nutshell, right there.  Note, however, that although the boys’ reliance on their mothers is “touching and profound, but the mothers first had to know ‘it’ in such a way that the young men, observing them closely and hearing them (as is always the case with children observing parents), did ‘not doubt’ that their mothers knew that ‘it’ was true.” [4]

Sister Julie B. Beck, our Relief Society president, described covenant women who know who they are:  “The responsibility mothers have today has never required more vigilance. More than at any time in the history of the world, we need mothers who know. . . . When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children.” [5]

The leaders of my church, back in 1942, gave counsel to those in military servicebut it applies to all, as we all need to be good examples while defending the faith.  They said:

“To our young men who go into service, no matter whom they serve or where, we say live clean, keep the commandments of the Lord, pray to Him constantly to preserve you in truth and righteousness, live as you pray, and then whatever betides you the Lord will be with you and nothing will happen to you that will not be to the honor and glory of God and to your salvation and exaltation. There will come into your hearts from the living of the pure life you pray for, a joy that will pass your powers of expression or understanding. The Lord will be always near you; He will comfort you; you will feel His presence in the hour of your greatest tribulation; He will guard and protect you to the full extent that accords with His all-wise purpose. Then, when the conflict is over and you return to your homes, having lived the righteous life, how great will be your happiness—whether you be of the victors or of the vanquished—that you have lived as the Lord commanded. You will return so disciplined in righteousness that thereafter all Satan’s wiles and stratagems will leave you untouched. Your faith and testimony will be strong beyond breaking. You will be looked up to and revered as having passed through the fiery furnace of trial and temptation and come forth unharmed. Your brethren will look to you for counsel, support, and guidance. You will be the anchors to which thereafter the youth of Zion will moor their faith in man.” [6]

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Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[1] Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7
[2] Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, Nov. 1997, 73; italics added
[3] “Prophet Grateful for Gospel, Testimony,” Church News, Sept. 21, 1996, 4
[4] Neal A. Maxwell, That My Family Should Partake [1974], 58–59
[5] Ensign, Nov. 2007, 76
[6] Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark Jr., and David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, 96

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